Post-BA Fellowships for Seniors & Recent Grads

"My fellowship allowed me access to organizations and a position that I otherwise might not have had with only an undergraduate degree."

As a John Gardner Fellow, Kay Fernandez (Social Welfare) was matched up with a brilliant and well-respected leader in her field, who has demonstrated a real interest in her professional growth and development. "I was able to think big! I am part of a strong network of former fellows who are leaders in the public and private sector."

What is a Fellowship?

Professional work fellowships are paid, formal programs lasting anywhere from three months to a couple of years. They are designed to provide graduating students and recent alumni with access to seasoned professionals as mentors and significant projects to undertake in their field. You do not need to be a graduate student to qualify for most of these fellowships.

Fellowship programs can be designed to support a range of activities including:

  • graduate study in a specific field
  • research to advance work on a particular issue
  • developing a new community-based organization or initiative
  • training and reflection to support the fellow's growth
  • opportunities to further explore a particular field of work
  • support for leadership in a particular region or within a particular group

Working as a Fellow

Fellowships are structured to provide significant work experiences and fellows are often expected to take on a great deal of responsibility quickly. Generally, fellows are provided with unique experiences that are not typically available to someone starting out in an entry-level position.

This experiential learning component varies depending upon the fellowship program. It could be:

  • an apprenticeship with a senior level nonprofit professional
  • a research project designed and implemented by the fellow
  • a part-time or full-time internship in an organization chosen by the fellow
  • short-term field placements in various segments of the public affairs arena: nonprofits, labor, the media, the private sector, and government entities
  • a team project developed by the group of current fellows
  • an independent project proposed by a social entrepreneur and funded by the fellowship program

Training and Professional Development

Fellowship programs are known for their commitment to the professional development of individual fellows and often include intensive training. Key elements of this training might include:

  • academic seminars to develop frameworks and apply theory
  • in-depth research and analysis of a particular issue area
  • attendance at professional conferences and meetings
  • a broad curriculum of skills development: leadership, community organizing, public speaking, grant writing, media relation


Compensation is often considered the biggest drawback of a fellowship. Although most fellowship programs do provide a living allowance or stipend, it is typically not comparable to the salary of a full-time job. This financial compensation varies greatly - stipends can range from $10,000 to up to $25,000 for a 9-12 month program.

Other incentives are often provided to fellows such as:

  • healthcare coverage and other employment benefits
  • student loan repayment programs
  • graduate school credits
  • housing stipends
  • paid travel or relocation expenses
  • alumni networks for developing and maintaining contacts in the field

The Application Process

Applications can be extensive and often include a resume, transcript and letters of recommendation. Most programs will also require some kind of writing sample, essay or written proposal. There may be additional application materials required if the fellowship includes a university nomination process, such as Junior Fellow Program with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The application process and content vary greatly depending on the program. Some fellowships seek applicants with outstanding academic achievement, others do not. Some seek fellows with experience in the issue the program addresses, others less so. Most programs do look for:

  • motivation, self-direction and personal integrity
  • highly developed interpersonal and writing skills
  • demonstrated leadership and potential for continued leadership

In addition, most programs include an interview. The interview process may be a series of individual interviews or a single panel interview. Some include situational group interviews in which candidates work together to devise responses to a problem or question.

Tips for Finding Fellowships

Here are some strategies beyond looking at our "Links to Fellowship Programs" below:

  • Do a keyword search "fellowship" while reviewing online job listings. Look closely at internships for the recent college graduate; there are some internships that are essentially fellowships.
  • Network. The nonprofit community is very collaborative and can provide good word-of-mouth information.
  • Identify nonprofit organizations of interest to you. Contact them to see if they offer fellowships.
  • Talk to current fellows for the inside story. They are expecting to hear from prospective fellows. Most fellowship websites profile current and former fellows. There may be an alum from your campus who has been a recent fellow.

Don't Delay - Deadlines Loom & Denial Can Only Postpone Post-Graduation Planning For So Long

Now is the time for graduating seniors and recent grads to look into this option. Deadlines for fellowships are often in January or February and the application process is often extensive, including letters from faculty and written essays. You'll need to write a strong application to be competitive.

Additional Resources